You gotta love local government for the options it brings to the table. Want to work in a big city – sure, tick, Brisbane. Want to work in a cool small city – sure, tick, Dunedin. Want to work with a view and everyday access to Aoraki Mount Cook – sure, tick, the Mackenzie. Want to be surrounded by the grandeur of the Blue Mountains – sure, tick, Oberon. Want to live in a desert, with an oasis of fruit trees and vines – sure, tick Central Otago.
Want to roam where the cassawary do, where crocs eat you for lunch and the reef is just there – sure, tick, Cook and Hinchinbrook. Now, want to live off the beaten track, where the landscape suggests dinosaurs may still roam and the cattle are unencumbered by fences – sure, tick, Burke.
My first CEO council was Cook Shire. Thank-you ever so much Cook Shire for opening the CEO office door to me. At 32 years young, it was one long adventure and a steep learning curve. Cooktown, at that time, was a four hour drive in the dry season, on mostly unsealed roads, from Cairns. Situated on Cape York, the pointy part of Queensland, it was a wild, untamed beauty. I loved it. Still do.
When you talk Councils, you might say there are city councils, rural councils and remote councils. New Zealand does have all three, but Australia, well she does remote and really means it. I think New Zealand is too small size wise, to offer a really remote experience. Some people might say Central Otago is remote, it’s not. Burke, now that is remote. Maybe the West Coast is the closest thing NZ has to remote.
“Go west young woman, you will love it”, said no one to me never. But I did. Burke, in the Gulf of Carpentaria asked for a new CEO, I said pick me, pick me. So in 2009 the Mr and the lads and I left the convenience of life in Brisbane and headed to the Gulf. Now with Covid 19 I wish we lived out west, or New Zealand. Yes, I think lock down would have suited me better than this Aussie slowdown. Stay home, stay safe.
Just getting to Burke was an adventure. Flights, Brisbane to Cairns on the big plane. Then to the little plane we go. Up at Cairns, down at Normaton, up and down again at Mornington Island, up again and then off at Burke. Ten minutes to town. Hello Burke.
So first things first. Burke is not only remote, but has a rainy season like no other. It’s called ‘the wet’ and it floods. In a big way, not a one day event and then gone way, but in a biblical Noah and the Ark kinda way. In January 2009 it rained and all roads were cut for 14 weeks. Yep 98 days …. no arks around so we used helicopters for food drops ex Mount Isa into Burke. Plus the tinnies (boats) to get people from the airport to town. It was quite the experience. In times like this you can really understand the value local government provides to remote communities.
I loved working in those remote and rural communities. You give your time and energy and you really see the impact. If anyone was to ask me …. “should I go rural?” Damn straight you should. So many choices, so much fun, go west or south or north. For that matter go east too, as New Zealand is fabulous. Your skills are transferable and the city will always be there. Rural and remote roles are really worth a second look as you will learn far more than you thought likely as in the bush local government is much more than you might imagine. Plus hey, Covid 19 hasn’t crossed the Great Dividing Range as yet, so like bonus!